Showing posts with label bible. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bible. Show all posts

Saturday, March 02, 2013

More Musings by Oven Mitt

Oven Mitt emailed me this response to Freethinker, concerned that it was too long for the comment section. I am publishing it here as its own post. (Readers, please consider submitting a guest post on any topic. Challenge our thinking!)
Left to Right: Frank Zappa, Oven Mitt

Dear "Freethinker,"
Thank you for your very thoughtful reply. You say "The vast majority are placing their faith in the 'confirmed reality' of the Bible." On one level, I would concede your point. In a way, if you were to poll people, statistically speaking, what you say about the majority is perhaps true. But only in a way.

One consideration is that in every faith tradition there are people (who are not the majority) who are deeply spiritual, for whom every element of their lives is informed by religious meaning and who are better people for it. But there are also, in every faith tradition, I think, individuals who relate to their tradition as a way to stay out of trouble and solicit good luck. Often, this takes on the flavor of a transaction, of something like commerce:

If you, the worshiper, do this (where "this" could be pray, offer sacrifices on an altar, give to the poor), then I (the fabric of the universe, or the god of my profession, or the unique and all-powerful god) will make your flocks flourish, or get you a raise, or save your soul.

Several years ago, on the bus I rode to work, there was a fellow rider who was an immigrant to the United States, who didn't speak English well but loved to talk. As I got to know this rider better, I found her to be kind, considerate of other people's ideas, and possessed of a prodigious desire to work. A good person. She was telling me one morning about New Year’s rituals in the her family, rituals that came out of a religious tradition. These rituals were for luck and prosperity. "Only for luck?" I asked. She gave me a look that said, "What? What other reason would you have for a ritual?"  My question was apparently uunnerving, even absurd. And yet she had been formed in this tradition and was a good person, perhaps even an excellent person. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Reading the Old Testament in Iraq

Following is a guest post by Eric, a former Laestadian.

Let me say by way of a preface that many Christian churches do NOT teach that the Bible is inerrant, or that its "truth" lies in literal interpretation. Many Lutheran churches, including the ELCA congregation where I explored the Old Testament for the first time, encourage their members to use a critical approach to the authorship, translation, and interpretation of Scripture. Most mainline seminaries are entirely invested in this method, and not all their graduates emerge as atheists. Christianity is a big tent, and theism is even larger.

My hope is that this blog demonstrates the wide variety of responses to religious tradition and the quest for meaning. Please consider submitting a guest post of your own.

Eric writes:
(As a Laestadian) I shared the idea of the inerrancy of the Bible (it was given by doctrine) and the pursuit of truth. I reasoned that if the Bible is 100% true, then no matter how hard I tried to find it, I couldn’t ever find an inconsistency or contradiction. And, it wouldn't ever hurt to try since there’d be nothing to be afraid of. Either I find that the Bible isn't true (preposterous!), which would therefore mean that I have shed myself of untruth, or I’d find it is true and I’d have verified it for myself. Either way, it would be interesting.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fighting Words

Page from a Gutenberg Bible (1454)
This week I stopped at the downtown public library and saw an exhibition of rare religious texts. With permission, I photographed some of the treasures they had on display. The images you see here are presented in the order of the document’s dating, oldest first.

Witness to the Generations

I meditated on these centuries-old relics for quite a while, considering the many human lifetimes that have passed since the words were pressed and penned onto their pages. Even back then, the sources of those words were already ancient. Most of the books were Bibles, their text copied or translated from a succession of painstakingly hand-copied manuscripts whose original sources have been almost entirely lost in antiquity.

Two columns of clean, bold type stared out at me from the page of a Gutenberg Bible, 558 years after the ink went dry. So much history has passed since then, so many generations born into lives that were “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (Thomas Hobbes, 1651). The black and red of the letters seemed not to have faded at all, unlike the colors of whoever pressed the type onto the page in Mainz, Germany–and his child, and that child, and so on. At least twenty generations of lives blooming and fading: a succession of pink-faced infancy transforming into the gray of old age and death, or worse, a dark red death on the endless battlefields of crusade and conquest.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Heaven and Earth

Click here for a larger version of the image

I ran across this picture recently, which depicts the universe as it was understood to be by the ancient biblical writers. The basis for the image is drawn from passages in Genesis, Job, the Psalms and other portions of the Old Testament.

What I find especially fascinating is that even the most literalist Christians would no longer accept this cosmology as accurate, yet there is not a lot of discussion about this seismic shift in worldview --at least not in the Laestadian circles of my youth.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Biblical Dreams and Schemes

I recently ran across this "long, but worth it" article by Dr. James D. Tabor (Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte) entitled What the Bible Says About Death, Afterlife, and the Future. I think it's worth sharing because in no other article I've read on this subject to date have I seen both modern biblical scholarship and Bible verse citation used to such dramatic effect to convincingly show how biblical concepts have changed over time, resulting in a Bible in which competing and often contradictory claims about death, afterlife, and the future coexist.

There is no simple and single response to the question of what the Bible really says about the future. What one finds is just what one would expect in any book composed of documents from many times, places, circumstances, and authors–variety and development. . . My treatment presupposes no particular valuation of the various dreams and schemes regarding the future.

What is most remarkable about all these images and views of the future, taken from all parts of the Bible, is their amazing flexibility. They were, and continue to be, applied to all kinds of situations and circumstances, always shaping the way readers ask and answer some of their most profound questions.

I increasingly see Laestadtianism in this context. It arose in a specific historical and cultural situation as a meaningful response to valid issues at that time. As evidenced by some of the posters to this site, it remains meaningful to some people today. However to me and many others, Laestadianism fails to address the present day situation. This disconnect causes many people to leave.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Something Laestadian, or Just Me?

The following is the biblical story of Abraham and Sarah, presented as a Godly Play script.

I've posted before about Godly Play, and what a great Sunday School curriculum I think it is. What I haven't said is that I have a certain reaction to this way of presenting the story, and I've long been curious about whether my reaction is "just me" or something from my Laestadian upbringing.

So in the spirit of experiment I invite you to view the story, and post your reactions in the comments. Maybe your reaction will be the same as mine, maybe it will be different. Maybe it will give me some insight into myself, my Laestadian upbringing, or both.

Monday, January 28, 2008


It's been great to see all the new comments from folks who are questioning Laestadianism, reading the Bible and forming their own conclusions. You are not alone. This blog is for you.

One theme that I hear time and again from people who are leaving, have left, or are considering leaving is this: "I started reading the Bible for myself, and it calls what I've been taught into question."

I think this is one of the great strengths of the Bible, no matter what branch of Christianity you come from. At least since the protestant reformation (and I suspect long before it as well) all kinds of people with widely varying beliefs have used the Bible to call the powers that be and the prevailing wisdom into question.

I can't help but chuckle a little bit inside when some established faith communities try to take the Bible and use it to support a rigid system of rules and power relationships. (Laestadianism being a major offender, but I can think of some others as well.) The Bible, with all its stories of the lowly being raised up, and the rich and powerful being brought down. It's a little bit like trying to build a jail out of bricks using plastic explosives as mortar. Sooner or later that ediface is going to blow sky high!

On a slightly different tangent, when I left Laestadianism I had to take a "break" from the Bible for awhile. Whenever I would read scripture, I would hear the preachers voices in my head. I was so familiar with how the preachers interpreted the Bible that it was hard for me to see anything there other than what the preachers had to say.

One of the great benefits of reading theological books and course materials in addition to just the Bible is that you'll get exposed to ways of thinking about the text that you could never imagine on your own. It has taken a long time, but I'm starting to be able to look at scripture and see a "surplus of meaning" instead of the limited meanings assigned by the preachers.

While I believe that we're each called to be our own theologian and "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" there are also great benefits to taking advantage of the wealth of theological reflection that has been done over the last 20 centuries. We can "stand on the shoulders of giants" and see much farther than we would alone.

I'll conclude this post with some discussion questions from a Bible study I recently ran across on my own denominations web site. I thought the questions were good ones for ex-Laestadians as well:

  • What were your early experiences with and understandings of the Bible? How has your understanding of the Bible changed over time?
  • What is your understanding of the authority of Scripture and the role of tradition and reason in your decision making? Do you see the Bible as containing the specific answers to all our questions and issues, or is it more than "just a simplistic rule book"?
  • What is your experience of the difference between reading and interpreting the Bible alone versus in a group? What is the role of the Christian community (past and present) in interpreting or communicating God's Word to us?


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Christian Unity, Laestadian Unity

What is the basis for Christian unity? We all know how unsuccessful Laestadianism is when it comes to unity. What started as a church-within-a-church in nineteenth century Finland quickly splintered into differing and competing groups both there and in the United States, where acronyms like ALC, FALC, OALC, LLC and more denote the many groups --most of whom think they are the only true church.

Of course, all the Laestadian splinters are but a microcosm of the even greater disunity throughout greater Christendom. Depending on which historians you read, Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism either parted ways in 1066 or were never one church to begin with. Then in the 1500s the Anglicans split off, and poor, naive, Martin Luther opened the floodgates for split-offs and spin-offs by translating the Bible into the vernacular, effectively allowing each reader to be their own priest, preacher, and theologian. He actually believed that if each person could read the Bible for themselves they'd all agree with his interpretation!

I'd like to start a conversation here about what keeps us together as Christians, as ex-Laestadians, as human beings... I'll start by quoting this excerpt of an article I read in another context but which I found illuminating...

If we are to restore unity amidst our differences, I don't think we will find it in the Bible. After all, the expression of the Word of God par excellence for Christian people is not the Bible. It is, rather, Jesus himself – the Word made flesh. At the heart of our faith, we see Jesus as the most sublime expression of the Word of God, and we are convinced that Jesus as the Christ is not locked into a particular period of history, but is a living presence in the life of the church today and in the life of each of us who seek to be his followers. The Bible is a tool – and an indispensable one – in coming to know the Christ, as are tradition and reason. But the tools can ever only be tools – none of them can ever replace the One whom they help us to find.

St. Paul has been much maligned over the years. He is regarded by many as a misogynistic conservative. But it is closer to the truth, I think, to acknowledge that whatever else St. Paul was or might have been, at heart, he was a mystic whose own conversion to the Christian faith was rooted in an encounter with the Risen Christ that was difficult to put into words. As Paul himself says, when it happened, he couldn't tell whether or not he was in his own body, and after it was over, he had seen things that were impossible to describe. But the result of this encounter with the Risen Christ for Paul was radical transformation – the kind of transformation that made Paul, the observant Jew, able to say – quite astonishingly – that in Christ, there is "neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female." This leads me to conclude that in Christ, there is also neither conservative nor liberal, Global South or Global North, straight or gay. Rather, there are only human beings made in the image of God, baptized into the Body of Christ, each seeking to be transformed through our own encounter with the Risen Christ. Our life in Christ lies exactly there: in Christ. Not in the Bible, nor even in our tradition. And Jesus reminded his followers many times that life in Christ was often an unpredictable and personally crucifying experience.

After making this post, I ran across this funny cartoon on regarding some of things that divide us, so I'm making this update. ;-)


Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter Message

Vance writes:
I just want everyone to know my reason for going to speak at the OALC on Easter. The first is obedience to God. The second is my love for all the people in the OALC.
For the last few weeks God has laid it on my heart to go to the OALC and share my testimony. I kept praying about it and hoping that the feeling would go away. It didn't. I finally obeyed and decided to go to the event center on Easter Sunday. When I begin to share my story, they shut the microphone off. I begin yelling so people could hear me and they started singing to drown me out. Needless to say, I didn't get the chance to finish. So, here is my testimony
(if anybody was there, the wording of this may be different. I knew I would only have a chance to say a few things before I was stopped):

I born, raised, and married while in the OALC. I was pretty happy most of the time but I was never truly at peace. I knew Jesus died for my sins but since we are always sinning we could never really be free. That bugged me. Another thing that bugged me was that the preachers' would say that if anything they said was offensive or wrong that they wanted to know. But, yet, earlier in the same sermon, they would say you were supposed to trust the preachers and NOT question because it is GOD'S WORD. That is a lie because only the Bible is the word of God and we can NOT follow any man on earth. Not Laestadius, not the preachers, not me, not your parents, not the older christians. Jesus Christ is the only one we can follow. When people try to direct us to Christ, we need to compare what they're saying to the word of God. (the Bible) It was also preached on Easter Sunday at OALC, that we need to follow the ones who have the understanding through the Holy Spirit. That's not what Jesus said. "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." John 14:6 KJV We will all stand before God on Judgement Day and we can't have excuses of why we put our trust in men. (preachers, elders, Laestadius)
Jesus died to forgive the sins of the whole world, not just the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church. When we belive Jesus is our Redeemer, we go to the cross and repent of our sinful ways. We have to get up from the cross as Jesus did and turn from the sin that died with Christ. The resurrected Jesus represents the new life or rebirth in us through the Holy Spirit. Not just the preachers are enlightened to the Truth of the Bible but anyone who desires to know God and follow Him through His son.
For anyone reading this that has fear, doubt, and confusion... Jesus says, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." Matt. 7:6-8 KJV
God will never leave nor forsake you! I did not go to the service to condemn anybody but to offer hope. My hope and prayer is that I see all of you in heaven.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Inerrancy? Why?

It is not only de rigeur in Laestadian circles but in many others (Christian and Moslem alike) to claim the inerrancy of the Word. Tragically, along with this a priori comes the justified vilification of "unbelievers," heretics, women, homosexuals, science, and intellectuals, to name a few. A prescientific supposition that should have died with blood-letting and phrenology, inerrancy is kept alive by fear and ignorance, fueled by despots who need their minions (sometimes cannon fodder) unified beneath them.

If your hackles are rising, let me add: if errancy challenges your faith, your faith is misdirected.

I read recently that among American laypeople, the belief in scriptural inerrancy is declining but still much higher than it is among seminarians. I guess studying Greek and Hebrew and the origins and history of the Bible does something to one's credulity.

There are real world consequences to credulity, major and minor. Terrorists behead infidels while quoting the Koran. Korans are flushed down prison toilets by Bible-quoting grunts. Scripture-quoting idiots kill doctors and torch abortion clinics. Evangelical lawmakers cut off funds to AIDS organizations that distribute (horrors!) condoms. Creationist teachers tell their students that evolution is "just a theory."

Near Seattle recently, a school board restricted teachers from showing Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" because an evangelical parent believes global warming is (1) not America's fault and (2) a sign of Jesus' imminent return.

Yah, sure. Let's speed it along, then. Make us some big bonfires. Throw on the science books.

In yesterday's paper there was an article about a newly discovered fossil in Kenya. Cool. Except that it is causing controversy among evangelicals, who claim that evolution is destroying their faith.

Well, then, let's throw that fossil on the fire, too. And Leakey while we're at it. Dagnab Darwinite.

The brilliant professor who introduced me to Darwin and evolution once remarked "most people if given a choice between security and truth will choose security." But that's a false dilemma. Our security must be in Truth, or it is false security.

Am I done ranting? Yes. Your turn.

Thanks to Theo (aka Thorough) for the Orthodox perspective on biblical inerrancy. For a lot of other perspectives, go here. Read all the way to the end . . . it's worth it. Then go ahead and flame / rejoinder / huzzah me.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Scripture Favorites

What's your favorite scripture passage, and why?

I'll start with a couple of passages from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

Philippians 2:5-12, because the idea of working out ones own salvation resonates with me, as does the idea of kenosis:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

Another favorite is Colossians 1.15-20, which speaks to me about the connectedness between Christ, us, and the cosmos:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.


Monday, November 22, 2004

One Reader's Journey

A kind reader has allowed me to excerpt some of her writing here, with the hope of helping others. This is the story of her journey.

"My questions actually started . . . in my teens. At that time I guess I just didn’t have the maturity to understand my questions. I thought I was just being rebellious or not having faith. I don’t know that I ever really believed (in my adulthood) that the Apostolic Church was the only true body of Christ. The more I read the Bible the more it had been revealed to me that my path as a Christian was not (in that church)."

"I think the reason I stayed so long was mainly, not wanting to cause sorrow or worry. It was also very hard to leave the culture that I loved. I knew if I left the church I would also lose my cultural connection. There is also the pain of knowing that many people who I love would no longer consider me a Christian. That is a painful and lonely path to follow. But a far more painful path for me was to ignore the Holy Spirit speaking to me and revealing truths to me."

"I felt like I was starving for God’s word and wasn’t getting it . . . I needed truth from the Bible preached to me. I have always clung to a passage . . . in John or Romans . . . that we need to hold what we hear up to the test of the Bible. What I was hearing was only partially passing the test."

"The forgiveness of sins is available to all who believe and call His name. Nothing of our own works will save us “lest we should boast”. So my asking (others) for forgiveness will not save me, because that would require something on my part (or theirs). Only my faith in Christ and going to Him can save me. The forgiveness of sins is the confirmation of what He has already done. Otherwise, if it was required that I go to some other and ask my sins to be forgiven, that is saying that we can do better or add to what He already did on the cross. Since Jesus is the ONLY way to our Father and salvation then this cannot be so. Now though the declaring of the forgiveness of sins is a very wonderful and blessed gift, it is not what saves. Christ dying and my accepting (and believing) are all that will save me. My confessions I can make to God in my prayers or if I choose I can confess to another."

"So how can one be only saved in this one church? How can all others who teach that Christ died for all man’s sin, and all must believe and turn to Him be wrong? I agree that there are many false doctrines out there. There are many dead and lost churches that are trying to be so inclusive as not to offend anyone. I’ve visited many of these churches and put them to the test of the Bible."

"I never got a “yes” from God at any of the local churches I tried until I visited C___ Lutheran Church in S___. This was the first service I had been to for many years that I felt the Holy Spirit move me. I decided to stay and visit for a while. I’ve now been going there for over a year and have become a member."

"I’ve found peace, Biblical truth, and a living congregation. It is so hard to try to explain to you or others what the difference is. I’m more than willing to discuss it but now only with those that let me know they wish to have this discussion with me. I have no desire to insinuate my beliefs on those that think I can no longer possibly attain salvation since I no longer declare myself an Apostolic Lutheran. I don’t wish to negate anyone’s beliefs but I do know that I have been led to my new church and awareness. And no, I don’t believe that it is the only “right” church. It is the church where my Heavenly Father has told me He wants me."

"I guess I only feel that I need to be open and honest . . . I feel no shame, doubt or regret, only sorrow caused by the judgment of others.

"I’m just so thankful that I have been led to a place where I can worship. Some things are very strange to me. After going to a church for all of one's life, the way a service is run can be strange and foreign in another church. I had to learn that cultural rituals don’t matter. Only that what is spoken is Biblically true and pure. That the beliefs of man are not spoken as Word. That everything taught to us can be proven true by the Word He has left us."

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Cut and

This is a post from by "Exodus member, Wa" on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 11:08 pm:By Exodus member, Wa. on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 11:08 pm:

"As a recovering OALC member, I can assure you that the members of this "church" believe that they are rightous before God, and that they and fellow church members who have "living faith", are going to be the only people in heaven. They feel free to exclude any and all peoples based upon the doctrine of their church.(This exclusion can be based upon heridity, prior church attendance, education level and the most horrifying- Skin color).

"This doctrine as was stated previously by Unworthy, has taken the word of God, and twisted it to meet the needs of the church men and women. Ask any member of this group why they belive what they do? They can't answer this question for many reasons.

"1. They don't know the word of God themselves- it has been preached in the church that it is actually a sin to pick up your Bible any try to read it for yourself- because God can only really talk to/through the preachers.

"2. They have replaced the importance of God's word, with the sermons of a man, Lars Levi Laestadius, who preached in Europe, long ago. The sermons have been compiled into books, or "Postulas", and the majority of any church service is spent reading these sermons and commenting/teaching alongside of the sermon just read. Unworthy mentioned that God does not want man to plan what he is going to say in his sermon, because it is not truly from God when it is planned out. What about the sermon reading of L.L.Laestadius? When an actual Bible verse is read, it is one of the same 20 or so places that all of the preachers choose, when they are called upon to speak. I once asked why the whole Bible is not studied and the reply was that these places are understood best, and it is good to stay with something that is familiar.

"3. The OALC church has taught, throughout the many years I was in the church, that seminary/college is a sin, and that when you go to these places, satan takes over your mind, and you will loose your simple belief in the" True and Living Christianity". To apply any advanced knowledge to reading/studying the Bible is a Heresy in the OALC church. Undoubtly, knowledge can be sought for it's own sake, but, this church assumes all knowledge is detrimental. The children are not encouragedd to plan for college, and it is a very small percentage of the population who goes on to any post-high-school training of any sort. Many of the young people don't even finish high-school, as they are eager to begin making money, so they can move out from home and get married. Many of my friends and family from that church, were married before the age of 18. The church encourages early marriges, rather than having the kids sin.

"4. When you as a church member begin to evaluate what your personal views on any subject may be, you have to be very careful to/with whom you speak. If you raise any doubts through actions/words, your fellow church members will pounce upon you, bringing the fear of •••• and damnation right to your face. They then, may or may not tell the preachers about their knowledge, and then you will have some real explaining to do! The church belives you can "loose your salvation in a twinkling of an eye", even though God's word teaches that not one beliver can be snatched from his hand. I, personally was told that" I was going straight to ••••!". Of course, I was assured that my condemnation to •••• was said in love, and that if I could just put my faith back into the preachers and Elders, everything would be fine again. Fear is used to twist the arms of men, women and children.

"In this atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, many abuses take place. From spouse to spouse, parent to child, child to child and from leaders to congregation. The average person in this group deals with at least one source of abuse, some suffer many. I know, I was one of them, and I know so very many more who cry silently for help from somewhere, and because of the exclusiveity in this group, no outside counciling or intervention is allowed the church members. Many of the older people in this church know what is happening, but claim that all answers are found,"in this Living Christianity".

"I have read the questions asked by many people interested in knowing more about this OALC church group. I have answered from my personal experience. In a church where no Bible study is allowed because it may cause disagreements and cause splits in the church, the atmosphere is at best suffocating, could it even be leading to spiritual death by those proclaiming to have the" One and only True Christianity?" I cannot make the leap to condem anyone to ••••. Only God knows whom he will save, for he has known us since before time, is he not capable of saving his own?"